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3 Janelia Publications

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    09/16/19 | A repeated molecular architecture across thalamic pathways.
    Phillips JW, Schulmann A, Hara E, Winnubst J, Liu C, Valakh V, Wang L, Shields BC, Korff W, Chandrashekar J, Lemire AL, Mensh B, Dudman JT, Nelson SB, Hantman AW
    Nature Neuroscience. 2019 Sep 16;22(11):1925-35. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0483-3

    The thalamus is the central communication hub of the forebrain and provides the cerebral cortex with inputs from sensory organs, subcortical systems and the cortex itself. Multiple thalamic regions send convergent information to each cortical region, but the organizational logic of thalamic projections has remained elusive. Through comprehensive transcriptional analyses of retrogradely labeled thalamic neurons in adult mice, we identify three major profiles of thalamic pathways. These profiles exist along a continuum that is repeated across all major projection systems, such as those for vision, motor control and cognition. The largest component of gene expression variation in the mouse thalamus is topographically organized, with features conserved in humans. Transcriptional differences between these thalamic neuronal identities are tied to cellular features that are critical for function, such as axonal morphology and membrane properties. Molecular profiling therefore reveals covariation in the properties of thalamic pathways serving all major input modalities and output targets, thus establishing a molecular framework for understanding the thalamus.

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    04/12/19 | Mapping the transcriptional diversity of genetically and anatomically defined cell populations in the mouse brain.
    Sugino K, Clark E, Schulmann A, Shima Y, Wang L, Hunt DL, Hooks BM, Traenkner D, Chandrashekar J, Picard S, Lemire AL, Spruston N, Hantman AW, Nelson SB
    Elife. 2019 Apr 12;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38619

    Understanding the principles governing neuronal diversity is a fundamental goal for neuroscience. Here we provide an anatomical and transcriptomic database of nearly 200 genetically identified cell populations. By separately analyzing the robustness and pattern of expression differences across these cell populations, we identify two gene classes contributing distinctly to neuronal diversity. Short homeobox transcription factors distinguish neuronal populations combinatorially, and exhibit extremely low transcriptional noise, enabling highly robust expression differences. Long neuronal effector genes, such as channels and cell adhesion molecules, contribute disproportionately to neuronal diversity, based on their patterns rather than robustness of expression differences. By linking transcriptional identity to genetic strains and anatomical atlases we provide an extensive resource for further investigation of mouse neuronal cell types.

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    10/31/18 | Distinct descending motor cortex pathways and their roles in movement.
    Economo MN, Viswanathan S, Tasic B, Bas E, Winnubst J, Menon V, Graybuck LT, Nguyen TN, Smith KA, Yao Z, Wang L, Gerfen CR, Chandrashekar J, Zeng H, Looger LL, Svoboda K
    Nature. 2018 Nov;563(7729):79-84. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0642-9

    Activity in the motor cortex predicts movements, seconds before they are initiated. This preparatory activity has been observed across cortical layers, including in descending pyramidal tract neurons in layer 5. A key question is how preparatory activity is maintained without causing movement, and is ultimately converted to a motor command to trigger appropriate movements. Here, using single-cell transcriptional profiling and axonal reconstructions, we identify two types of pyramidal tract neuron. Both types project to several targets in the basal ganglia and brainstem. One type projects to thalamic regions that connect back to motor cortex; populations of these neurons produced early preparatory activity that persisted until the movement was initiated. The second type projects to motor centres in the medulla and mainly produced late preparatory activity and motor commands. These results indicate that two types of motor cortex output neurons have specialized roles in motor control.

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